Nearly every American home has a combination tub-shower. They’re practical, flexible and hard to replace. Consider your space, the surface you want and your budget before deciding how to upgrade your tub-shower.
This custom tub-shower enclosure features a combination of materials including ceramic tile with glass-tile accents, a custom tub wall with a solid-surface top and tub deck, and a tempered-glass end wall to support the shower rod.
Older tub-shower combinations were set inside a ceramic tile alcove—essentially three tiled walls surrounding a porcelain tub. A tiled alcove works well, but tile requires regular maintenance to prevent leaks, mold, mildew, and stained grout. Later variations included one-piece acrylic tub enclosures with built-in soap holders and shampoo ledges. These enclosures are easy to clean and maintain, but replacing them can be a challenge.
Measure Before You Buy Before plunging into any tub-shower makeover, measure the doorways through which the parts will pass. Tight 90-degree corners with little maneuvering room may limit your options.
A typical remodeling project requires the new unit to be installed in sections. Large, heavy, one-piece bath-shower modules are usually for new construction or additions in which easy access is assured.
Remodeling Options There are several ways to update a tub-shower enclosure. Homeowners can even mix and match materials for a unique tub-shower project. Ceramic tile may be complemented with glass tile or solid surfacing on the walls or tub deck.
American Bath Industries of Hayward, California, promotes its AmeriWall thermally formed acrylic enclosure systems, which come in prefabricated kits. Marshall Cornblum, president of American Bath, says AmeriWall offers the look and feel of ceramic tile at a fraction of the cost, does not use grout, and has no color fading. The systems are easy to install with interlocking channels that fit together.
Solid surfaces such as DuPont Corian offer a quick solution for replacing existing shower-enclosures. Corian tub-and-shower surrounds can be installed over existing tile or acrylic surfaces if they are sound and properly prepared. Corian’s factory-packaged tub and shower surrounds are available in standard sizes and come in six colors, while custom surrounds can be made from any of 20 additional colors. Durable, low-maintenance, solid-surface material is renewable because the color runs throughout the material. Stains and scratches are easily buffed out. Corian surrounds range in price from $45 to $75 per square foot installed.
A classic tiled alcove presents a clean look for the tub-shower surround, but tile requires routine maintenance to avoid mold, mildew, or staining.
Tempered-glass enclosures are another possibility with curved glass and frameless options available. Sectionals made of molded acrylic or fiberglass offer fast and easy installation. They are also good for homes with uneven walls as they hide wall variations. With little to no grout to scrub, maintenance is simple and the enclosures are watertight. Several finishes are available from semi-gloss to textured gloss, smooth to embossed surfaces. Slip-resistant bottoms help ensure safety. Curved sectionals eliminate hard-to-clean corners and crevices. Shampoo and soap shelves are molded in.
Fixtures, Features, and Shelves When planning a tub-shower makeover, review the placement of showerhead, drains, and controls. Typically, a faucet with controls is mounted on the wall over the tub drain. Some people may prefer offset controls to eliminate getting wet while adjusting temperatures before getting in. A wall-mount faucet and showerhead is the most common installation but homeowners may opt for a handheld showerhead.
Plan for fixtures in advance so the builder can rough-in the appropriate support. Spa-like fixtures may not work with some prefabricated tub and shower enclosures. Also consider whether you wish to install a dome light.
All DuPont Corian wall panels come without openings, so faucets, shower heads, or recessed soap dishes can be placed anywhere. The only restriction is that openings are best kept away from any seams in the back wall.
Shower curtains or doors can generally be used with tub-shower surrounds. Doors are available as double- or triple-pane bypass or track, swinging, pivoting, or folding. Glass can be colored, textured, or etched. Those preferring shower curtains may want to read up on environmental disposal issues if they choose PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
One adaptive tub-shower option is the walk-in tub-shower. Typically, these are smaller than standard 60-inch-long tub-shower units, so they may fit remodeling specifications more readily. These units provide a convenient alternative to those who want to bathe or shower without having to step over a high-sided tub wall.